Beacons are small wireless devices that transmit radio signals.

The signal is usually picked up by smartphones in order for retailers or venues to detect where customers are and when they have approached or left a certain location. The device uses Bluetooth technology to interact with smartphone apps by sending out messages to users when they are within a certain proximity to the beacon.

Beacons for Retail Use

Beacons have become immensely popular with retailers because they make it easy to communicate with consumers without a human element. Retailers or business can push timely messages that promote certain products, or offer information to consumers while they are nearby a store or relevant area. With beacons, companies can entice customers to enter the store with personalized offers, speedy checkout options or other benefits.

Beacons can also help retailers collect real-time data about consumers in order to better serve them. In turn, consumers receive offers that are personalized and relevant to their interests. Imagine if you walked into an athletic goods store to buy a new pair of running shoes and instantly got an alert on your smart phone with a 15 percent off coupon for your purchase. With that example, retailers would hope that the discount would move a potential consumer further along the buyer’s journey.

Vast Tech Improvements

Beacons are a vast improvement upon old technology, which couldn't determine location as quickly or as precisely. Beacons have a 45 percent interaction rate compared to push notifications that don't use customer location. This means that customers who are in proximity to the place where a deal is being offered are that much more likely to take advantage of it than if they received an alert at home or elsewhere.

Who Is Using Beacon Technology?

Beacons are being used in a wide variety of ways, and many businesses in diverse industries are finding them useful. Macy's department store is a perfect example of a retailer using beacon technology to offer discounts and coupons to certain customers. Macy's is implementing the biggest beacon tech roll-out in all of retail, and is incorporating beacon discounts into 4,000 of their stores across the country. It will help the company as a whole offer customers the recommendations, deals and rewards they find most beneficial, as well as help the individual store collect data on consumer behavior.

Major League Baseball is another industry that is benefiting from beacon technology. Visitors can use it to find seats at the stadium instead of hunting around for open areas on their own. Many airports are starting to use beacon tech to help passengers find gates and receive alerts regarding time changes and other helpful information. When the data transmitted through beacon technology is helpful, i.e. finding seats/gates/saving time, consumers might be more open to receiving discounts and promotions that will prompt them to purchase products and services.

Toeing the Line

While these advances in technology are clearly a boon to the industries that are taking advantage of them, it's important to be aware of the fine line between taking advantage of this data and invading the privacy of your customers. Beacon technology can be a pivotal, working tool, but if the technology is abused, consumers will be reluctant to engage. You also don't want to bombard shoppers or potential customers with information. That's why it's important to only interact with consumers who are interested in what you're doing - and to make sure you're doing so at the right time.

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